The Theory of No Change

Theory-based evaluation is the order of the day. However, many theory-based evaluations focus on programme logics rather than actual theories of change. Programme logics start with the components of the project or programme, and discount all contextual factors and activities of other actors as external. This is inadequate as it does not account for the potential relevance of these external factors. Theories of change (as opposed to programme logics) reflect systems, including all relevant actors and actions. Based on the inadequacy of the existing approaches, Dr. Wörlen developed a concept that helps framing complete theories of change that is based on a review of case studies and evaluations and synthesizes these experiences into a coherent and consistent set of preconditions for project success that can serve as the basis for evaluations.

The Theory of No Change (TONC) is a theory of change for sustainable energy programmes. These typically start from a certain level of e.g. renewable energy deployment or utilization of energy efficient appliances in a country and the objective is to make these technologies used more widely, through policies, market transformation programmes, subsidies and additional financing or information interventions. It starts with the four main groups of stakeholders which can influence the effectiveness of such a project or programme in the energy policy field: the users, the providers of goods and services (“supply chain”), the financiers and the policy makers. All of these have a role to play in order for the project or programme to be effectively implemented, and if they do not play this role, this constitutes a barrier to project success. Six types of barriers have been identified: they are not aware, they do not have the expertise to fulfil this role, they cannot afford to play the role, they are not motivated or interested in playing the role, playing the role would not be cost-effective or they have
no access to the technology.

The TONC has been developed on the basis of two meta-reviews of evaluations of two sectoral
transformations. Its general applicability to different areas of policy and evaluation is being tested.